This was my second cruise, the other was only a 3 day and years ago. Let me begin by saying I am now hooked on cruising and look forward to next year's.
I travelled with my Dad, his lady friend, my brother and sister-in-law, who are all seasoned cruisers. I don't remember feeling the ship move on my first cruise, I did on this one. We rocked some, never enough to cause discomfort but we did rock because we went through some storms and it was extremely windy. Crew and staff said it was nothing like the previous week when the hurricane came through.
Embarkation: Bayonne is easy to board. RC transportation from the airport, smooth, I recommend for convenience. Short lines at the port, moved fast. It took a while to get my luggage delivered to my stateroom but probably because I boarded later.
Ship: Explorer is awesome. It never seemed crowded despite 3000+ passengers. This is a floating city. Plenty to see, plenty to do. Some of the staff lacked personality and did not seem to care. They don't hound you about buying drinks at the pool, matter of fact, it was hard to get a drink sometimes. The drinks were very weak except when you got a really good waiter, like Dr. Feel Good and Dr. Booze, who always spiced it up some more and made it fun. Finding a pool chair was a nightmare.
We searched on all pool decks and finally found three close to each other. My brother and sister-in-law said they had never had such a problem getting chairs. We made sure to get there earlier from there on. Not supposed to save chairs, and I wouldn't do that without me being in one of them, but others on the ship did not feel that way and policy wasn't enforced. Why have policies if you aren't going to enforce them? Stateroom: Great, but stay away from the 6th deck!
I was fortunate to have the entire stateroom to myself, but there was plenty of room for 2, more if kids are involved. Balcony was incredible, perhaps my favorite part. I did hear a loud thudding bass and people cheering every night even though I was mid-ship on the 6th deck. The only way I could drown the music out was to sleep with my balcony door open. I loved hearing the ocean but you're not supposed to do that. I finally called security on night 6 and the music quit. I thought they had done their job. The next night, the thud began again, I thought I had noisy neighbors having a party in their stateroom, but as it turned out, security told me I was hearing Maharaja's, a half a ship away and a floor down. When security told me what I was hearing, I don't see how this could be but it was. I would recommend avoiding the 6th deck all together.
Food services: Very good! Our dinner waiter was good and food excellent. He told us if you didn't like something, he would bring something else but never had to. We did run out of butter and some fruits several days before the end of the cruise. Windjammer, sufficient but I wish they had regular tea. Johnny Rockets, fun and good.
Ports of Call: St. Thomas is beautiful (took mountain top excursion). Time was short here considering the beauty and all there was I wanted to do. St. Maarten (Orient Beach excursion) is an experience to remember, close your eyes if you are modest. But you just gotta go. Kinda funny to see those old farts flaunting their less than attractive bodies. San Juan, an old town, offered shopping. Labadee was a nice little escape but why not give out tender tickets? Lines to get off ship were three decks long.
Spa: Good but PUSHY sales pitch.
Disembarking: Nightmare. Why hand out tags if you aren't going to enforce them? People sitting on steps and in walkways who deserved to get their heads knocked off accidentally. Why allow this? Overall: A wonderful experience I did not want to end. Service could have been better, but I won't complain too much. I'll be comparing to Crown Princess next June.